The Enigma Division
Ireland-based progressive metallers The Enigma Division formed in 2019 but their story begins much further back in time, 1977 to be precise. //Star Wars// had fired the world’s imagination and Nasa launched the Voyager Program to observe the outer limits of the Solar System. Guitarist Conor McGouran explains “People began to take an interest in space again and science fiction became embedded in pop culture like it never had before. I was always fascinated with Carl Sagan and the Voyager missions, from watching //Cosmos// as a kid to my uncle showing me the first photos of Neptune in 1989.”
McGouran and bassist Ronan Burns began playing music together at the age of 11. They shared a passion for metal, prog, fusion, pop and classical but their trajectories diverged over time. The guitarist reflects, “We always planned on doing a project that mirrored all the music we like but with life, we went different directions, played in different bands. We kept our promise though.”
Enter the “secret sauce”, drummer and vocalist Ben Wanders, McGouran’s bandmate in symphonic metallers Xerath prior to that band’s untimely implosion. Richard Thomson of Xerath is one of a constellation of musicians lending their talents to The Enigma Division’s self-titled debut. Most notable among those is ex-Dream Theater and Sons of Apollo keyboard giant Derek Sherinian whose cosmic contribution to the mind-blowing //Echoes In The Deep// is out of this world.
The album concludes with the near-twenty minute epic //1977 – Ad Infinitum// which features no fewer than three guest guitar soloists. The final word goes to Carl Sagan with a narration from his influential 1994 book //Pale Blue Dot: A Vision Of The Human Future In Space//. Fans of Sound Of Contact will find their ears pricking up at this point – there is a lot of sympathetic resonance here, not only thematically but in both bands’ preternatural ability to fuse complex prog with singalong pop hooks.
The Enigma Division describe their aesthetic, from the music to album art, from concept to their visually stunning videos, as tech-noir. The term was coined by James Cameron as the name of the nightclub in //The Terminator//. The trio’s cinematic use of keyboards is influenced by iconic 80s genre film soundtracks. “Film score and synths, particularly 80s horror and sci-fi, play a huge influence on our sound in terms of weaving all the tracks together,” states McGouran, “I use (Yamaha) CS-80 and Prophet pads and sounds extensively throughout. Both synths feature heavily in Vangelis’ //Blade Runner// score and Brad Fiedel’s score for //The Terminator//.”
The stellar debut was scheduled for release in 2020 but was set back until 2023 due to world events. The upside is that a follow-up is already in the works. McGouran reveals to //Prog// “We are currently demoing the next one and it’s coming together very nicely. We are working on the logistics of a live show too.”
The Enigma Division’s live premiere will be at Bloodstock in August. CM
Conor McGouran (guitars, keyboards, programming), Ronan Burns (bass, keyboards, programming), Ben Wanders (drums, vocals)
Dream Theater’s imaginary score for Blade Runner
The Enigma Division was released on January 27th.
— Chris McGarel
From "Limelight - The Enigma Division" Prog
Issue 140 Reprinted with permission.